Mama's proves it knows best

14 August, 2009
In a tense contest, 12 cupcakes battled it out for the accolade of Cupcake Champion and a winning slot on one of BB's Cupcake Week days. Andrew Williams reports
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It was a gruelling day of judging, resulting in a near-heart-stopping overdose of buttercream for our panel of experts. But the votes have been cast and we are delighted to announce Herts-based Mama's Cupcakes the supreme champion of National Cupcake Week's first ever Cupcake-off.

Our top panel of judges, including esteemed bakery writer and consultant Dan Lepard, cake specialist and author Mich Turner and British Baker columnist and co-author of Leith's Baking Bible Fiona Burrell, awarded it to Mama's, who came up with a timely retro-kitsch creation - a Black Forest Gateau cake.

Twelve shortlisted finalists were invited to bring their cakes along to be judged on appearance, texture, topping, taste and overall balance at sponsor Puratos' new Innovations Centre in Fringford. Puratos' technical expert Philip Bainbridge said: "All the 12 finalists have done really well. My favourite was the Black Forest Gateau - when you ate it all the flavours and textures went well together."

Co-sponsor Chevler's sales director Mike Wescomb added: "There has been a lot of work and innovative ideas put into the cakes. But the one I liked most was the Black Forest, because it's a grown-up cupcake."

The cupcake champion wins two tickets to this year's Baking Industry Awards and all winners will receive a year's supply of cupcake cases from Chevler and a copy of Mich Turner's book, Fantastic Party Cakes. A special thanks goes out for the great response and high-quality entries. Everyone who didn't make the shortlist should not be disappointed and we urge you to try again next year.

National Cupcake Week is now calling on all bakers in all sectors to bake a different cupcake for each day of the week, Monday to Saturday (bakers put their feet up on a Sunday - in theory!). Use the winning recipe ideas as inspiration, or go crazy with your own creations.

l Note: quantities appear as submitted by entrants

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=== Moreish Monday ===

Winner: 'Eat Your Greens' by Country Cupcakes; www.countrycupcakes.com

Cake: 2kg caster sugar * 4kg soft brown sugar * 2.4kg salted butter * 2.5ltrs sunflower oil * 60 free-range eggs * 2.6ltrs full-fat milk * 750g cocoa powder * 7kg plain flour * 130g baking powder * 9kg finely grated courgettes, peeled * 120ml Madagascan vanilla extract

Topping: 1.3ltrs fresh double cream * 1.4kg good quality dark chocolate, chopped finely * pretty fondant decorations

Makes 120: Beat butter, oil and sugars together for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. While mixture is still beating, slowly add eggs. Add milk, mix until smooth * Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into the mixture and fold in. Fold in courgettes and vanilla. Once well-mixed, pipe into cases to 2/3 full * Bake on 190?C for 20 minutes * For ganache topping, heat double cream to just before boiling point; take off the heat; pour in the chocolate, but don't stir yet; leave to cool, then stir until all chunks have gone. Leave to firm up to a pipeable consistency * Take the cooled buns, using a large star nib, pipe the ganache on to the cupcakes * Finish off with a fondant decoration.

Fiona (left): I thought this looked spectacular and the courgette was a good idea.

Dan: It's a really, really bright, simple idea.

Mich: Because there's a high proportion of topping, you could introduce different flavours with the chocolate. They've gone with the green flower, so you could do a mint chocolate or other flavoured chocolate with that.

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=== Tantalising Tuesday ===

Winner: 'Summertime Fizz Cupcake' by The Cupcake Girl; www.thecupcakegirl.co.uk

Cake: 2 large free range eggs * 125g caster sugar * 125g soft butter * 125g self-raising flour * 1tsp vanilla essence

Topping/filling: 200g chopped strawberries * Squeeze of lemon * 2tsp caster sugar * 100ml Champagne

Makes 10

For the cake: cream butter and sugar, gradually add beaten eggs and vanilla * Sieve self-raising flour and gently fold into mix * half-fill cup cases * Bake for 15 minutes at 180?C until golden * To make strawberry & Champagne compôte: heat strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a frying pan, add Champagne and reduce by half then leave to cool * Inject some compôte into the middle of each cupcake, then pipe on top and decorate with half a fresh strawberry.

Fiona: The compôte in the middle was something different and it looked beautiful, nicely finished. But I think it could be even better with slightly less topping.

Dan (left): Once a cupcake is finished, sometimes you think all that's left is to decorate. What they've done here is scooped a bit out and put a compote inside. This is something you could do with plums, apricots or whizz up some tinned fruits in a blender and make up a really good compôte.

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=== Whipped-up Wednesday ===

Winner: 'The White Rabbit' by Fantasy Cupcakes; www.fantasycupcakes.co.uk

Cakes: 560ml Vegetable oil * 8 medium eggs * 800g soft brown sugar * 1.2kg finely grated carrot * 400g raisins * 300g roughly chopped walnuts * 720g self-raising flour * 2tsp bicarbonate of soda * ¼tsp of salt * 4tsp cinnamon * 2tsp nutmeg * 2tsp mixed spice

Topping: 500g unsalted butter (room temp) * 1kg icing sugar * Approx 100ml milk * 1 generous tbsp Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract

Makes 64: Beat together oil, eggs, sugar, carrot, raisins, and nuts * Sift in dry ingredients and fold setting until just combined * Fill muffin cases to ¾ * Bake for about 30 minutes at 170?C * For topping, beat butter until soft * Add half the icing sugar a bit at a time until well-mixed * Add half the milk and the vanilla extract and mix in rest of icing sugar * Add the remaining milk until the desired consistency of buttercream is achieved * Beat for a further three minutes * Pipe generously onto cakes with a plain nozzle * Decorate with hand-cut sugar hearts painted with edible gold lustre.

Fiona: I like the carrot cake, which was quite moist, less so the appearance.

Dan: They've taken a gorgeous carrot cake and turned it into a cupcake, which is great. Make 'favourite cake' cupcakes. Find out what favourites your customers have and make that into a cupcake.

Mich: It would be lovely to introduce some of the fresh zested flavours, like a fresh orange zest, into the buttercream so you've got a real blend, and counter that with a nice syrup underneath so you have a zesty flavour through it.

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=== Thrilling Thursday ===

Winner: 'Crazy Lemon Drizzle Cupcake' by Crazy Baker; www.crazybaker.co.uk

Cake: 125g unsalted butter * 175g caster sugar * Zest of 2 lemons * 2 eggs * 175g self-raising flour * 2 to 3tbsp milk

Topping pt.1: Juice of 2 lemons * 3tbsp icing sugar

Topping pt.2: 250g butter * Juice and zest of 2 lemons * 300g icing sugar * Gold decorations

Makes 12: Cream butter and sugar until white and fluffy, beat in eggs one at a time * Fold in flour with milk very gently * Fill cases ¾ full * Bake at 180?C for 8 to 10 minutes * Mix lemon juice and icing sugar together and drizzle over cakes; allow to cool * Mix the butter, icing sugar, zest and juice of lemons to make icing and pipe over cool cakes or spread using a knife * Apply decorations

Fiona: The appearance was not so great, but the flavour of the lemon syrup on top gave a good flavour all through it. It was absolutely lovely. The only mistake is that they didn't think hard enough about how they appeared and the wow factor - you need to get the balance between that and going over the top.

Dan: Sometimes, bakers get scared about using fresh ingredients; using things like lemon zest can zip up a very simple cake. Also, using a syrup over the top of the cake is something that bakers can take from this.

Mich: As Dan said, when working commercially, people tend to use ready-zested lemons, but if you zest them fresh, you can't beat it. That's what will encourage people to come back and buy this one again and again.

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=== Fulfilling Friday ===

Winner: 'Very Vanilla' by Pat-a-cupcake; www.patacupcake.co.uk

Cake: 440g self-raising flour, sifted * 440g caster sugar, sifted * 440g unsalted butter * 4tsp baking powder * 8 large free-range eggs * 4tsp Nielsen-Massey Vanilla extract

Topping: 600g icing sugar sifted * 500g unsalted butter * 15ml Nielsen-Massey Vanilla extract * 100g melted Green & Black's white organic chocolate

Makes 40: Mix all cake ingredients until light and fluffy * Fill large cupcake cases with heaped tablespoons of the mixture and bake for 20 minutes at 160?C * For icing, place mix sifted icing sugar, butter and vanilla extract really well until light in colour; fully melt the chocolate and to the buttercream icing mixture and mix well.

Fiona: This had really nice colours, with a very sophisticated look.

Dan: It's lovely when you pair the experience with the name - it's called Very Vanilla and that's exactly what it is. I also like the delicate, pale colours.

Mich (left): What I loved about this was that it used really good, Fairtrade, organic Green & Black's white chocolate. You can see the vanilla pods have been used and the flavours were very pure.

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=== Supreme Saturday ===

Winner: 'Black Forest Cupcake' by Mama's Cupcakes; www.mamas-cupcakes.co.uk

Cake: 100g dark chocolate * 150g butter * 150g caster sugar * 3 eggs * 150g self-raising flour (mixed with 1 tbsp cocoa) * 2 tbsp ground almonds * 50g glacé cherries

Topping pt.1: 75g butter * 150g icing sugar * 2tbsp cocoa * 1tbsp kirsch * 50g dark chocolate (melted)

Topping pt.2: 12tsp kirsch * Black cherry preserve * Half pint double cream * 12 liqueur cherries * Chocolate shavings * Optional edible glitter

Makes 12: Melt chocolate * Beat sugar and butter until pale and fluffy * Add eggs one at a time, beating well * Beat in melted chocolate and stir in ground almonds * Sift flour and cocoa and fold in the glacé cherries * Spoon into large cases and bake for 20 mins at 180C * To decorate, spoon over a tsp of kirsch on each cupcake * Beat the butter, icing sugar, 1 tbsp kirsch and cocoa until well combined and soft * Fold in melted chocolate * Pipe an outer circle on each cupcake * Fill the centre of the circle with black cherry preserve * Whip double cream until stiff * Pipe a swirl on each cake, covering and sealing in the jam * Top with a liqueur cherry and chocolate shavings and edible glitter

Fiona: This was chosen because of the look of it. You cut it open and there is a surprise, with very moist cherries.

Dan: One good thing about this is you can make it as expensively or cheaply as you like. You could fill it with Valrhona or use brandied cherries on top or use Cadbury's and a budget cherry and still get a lot of fun out of it.

Fiona: I agree. When you cut into it you've got that Morello cherry inside, which is a really lovely, lush, rich cherry. The only thing I would change would be to substitute the red glâcé cherry for a nice Morello cherry with a stalk.





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